FOCUS: The racial wealth gap has worsened over the past 30 years as a result of sluggish income growth and an immobile social ladder

In light of college admissions season, paying for college has become a highly-pertinent issue, especially for those affected by the wealth gap. The wealth gap is described as the income disparity between ethnicities, and while higher education is perceived as a solution to these disparities, many believe the American social ladder has proven to be fairly immobile.

Junior Javeria Ahmed believes that career-defining opportunities are found in the networking systems of postsecondary education campuses, and that those who are legacy admits have easier access to valuable connections.

“Only a certain group of people are going to these private institutions,” Ahmed said. “The people who are going to community colleges or state colleges aren’t able to get that opportunity simply because they’re from a lower-income status.”

Receiving a college degree has a direct correlation to higher pay. Higher education, however, has not aided the wealth gap in a tremendous manner. In fact, the Wall Street Journal reported over the past 30 years, slow income growth and a stagnant economy have caused Black college graduates to lose ground.

Despite college degrees resulting in higher pay, those who have to pay off student debt face setbacks, and the wealth gap has worsened instead of improving. This disproportionately affects marginalized groups who still face poor financial circumstances in comparison to their non-marginalized counterparts, even with obtaining a college degree.

With comparatively lower costs, community colleges have paved paths for many. However, wealthier private institutions have more access to resources and funds to offer financial aid. According to the Washington Post, these same private institutions have a pattern of immoderately admitting white students. Black students will often attend less selective universities and turn to for-profit universities, which typically do not offer any financial aid.

While a college degree is inherently beneficial, freshman Nabayet Gebrehiwet believes that financing for college can create a vicious cycle of debt.

“It is a cycle. It is paying your loans and then getting out of college,” Gebrehiwet said. “And even if you have a good job, you have these horrible loans to pay back. And it’s hard. It obviously takes a toll on people and their opportunities.”

For people of color, attending college and receiving a well-paying job may not even be enough to repay incurred debts, reported the Washington Post. In fact, African Americans are far more likely to send money to their parents, whereas white graduates are more likely to be sent money from their parents.

In this day and age, higher education has become an issue of debt incurrence, which has worsened the wealth gap.

“You cannot really get out of it because you are never given the opportunity to get out of it,” Gebrehiwet said. “So to close the wealth gap, I think we would need to have more resources in areas where there are disparities.”

While disparities exist, senior Habibah Eldakrouri is optimistic that the historical lack of educational opportunities for Black people is being rectified.

“African Americans have to work a lot harder to achieve what most average (civilians) already have,” Eldakrouri said. “Black people are held to a higher standard in education… but it’s getting better.”